Andrew Jackson Jihad - People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World (Cover Artwork)

Andrew Jackson Jihad

People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World (2007)

Asian Man

Andrew Jackson Jihad is one of the best bands doing it right now. Their live shows are passionate; their lyrics are clever and their self-released material was the kind of uplifting acoustic punk that makes the listener shake his or her fist while smiling, then laughing and then being deeply disturbed. Their debut for Asian Man Records continues on the path set by previous demos and splits.

People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People on Earth continues the musical path set down from the band's early days. The songs all rely on the simple formula of acoustic guitar and standup bass. The album diverges from its predecessors with the addition of mandolin in most songs, electric guitar on some and horns on still others. Musically, the Jihad (if I may shorten their name thusly) stands a little above their acoustic-punk peers. Ben Gallaty is one of the few standup bassists I've seen in the punk scene, and I know from seven years in orchestra that that son of a bitch ain't an easy one to play. If you watch the guitarist, Sean Bonnette, play it's very impressive. The man plays something similar to flamenco style, really fast and using just his fingers. The rest of the instruments are covered by a rotating group of Bonnette and Gallaty's friends, but I'm not well-versed enough in any of the other instruments to comment on their talents. The ultimate result is an uplifting musical backdrop to Bonnette's vocals and songwriting.

The simplicity of the music allows the vocals to come to forefront on this record. Bonnette's nasally warble fits the music pretty perfectly. He passionately delivers lyrics that are sometimes disturbing, sometimes uplifting, but always clever and honest. On first listen, the songs are hysterical. But with repeated listens, laughter turns to contemplation. Bonnette explores motifs as varied as the duality of human nature, his own troubled past, the ethical implications of drug use and burning houses, all with a mix of sharp sarcasm and meaningful insight. Take, for instance, the following line from "People II: The Reckoning": "There is someone in your head waiting to fucking strangle you." That line is inherently funny (it almost always elicits a chuckle from me), but the song as a whole demands you pay serious attention to it. And that seems to be the trap that Andrew Jackson Jihad gets stuck in. Most listeners (at least, most people I've shown this to) have trouble getting past the humor.

This album is damn near perfect. The songs work on two levels. They are fun to listen to on the first spin. But each time you listen you get deeper and deeper into the album, and deeper into Bonnette's somewhat twisted world view. Get this; it's one of the best punk albums of the past few years.